5 May 2016 - A Rare Opportunity to Learn NewLaw from a Successful NewLaw Firm
Are you planning to still be in legal practice in five years time or 10 years time? If the answer is yes, then you need to learn as much as you can about NewLaw.
NewLaw is a term that covers new ways of marketing, packaging and delivering legal services.
Lawyer and non-lawyer startups are currently working out ways to disrupt the market for legal services. What should you be doing about this? The first step is to become educated about these developments.
Who better to learn from than a law firm that has undergone the transformation itself. View Legal has transitioned from time billing to fixed fee value pricing, and it has done a lot more than that.
The event, Foundations for the Future is planned for a number of locations across Australia and New Zealand in July 2016. The day will be split into six sections: Is it the end of the world as we know it? Perspectives on specialisation; Resourcing; Productisation; Pricing Models and Case Study – The Firm of the Future Now.
The organisers describe it as a one day workshop to “provide you the framework to ensure your business can reposition immediately for the new normal.” The workshop is supported by LexisNexis and will be conducted by View Legal.
3 May 2016 - Your Own Online Automated Wills Website
2 May 2016 - Banks Continue Support for Slater & Gordon
Slater& Gordon has announced that the banks have agreed to continue support for the company by not calling in loans early. Existing facilities have been restructured as term loans. $480m is required to be repaid in 2017/18 and $360m in 2018/19.
A condition of the support by the banks is that Slater & Gordon will not declare or pay any dividends.
Slater & Gordon can now focus on its business for the remainder of 2015/16 and all of 2016/17 so that it can demonstrate viability and profitability when the next round of negotiations with the banks arise concerning maturity of loans in 2017/18.
2 May 2016 - Vote for Sean
Sean Roche is the founder of www.lawfunder.org Australia's first specialist crowd funding platform for legal assistance. Vote for Sean to show your support for this initiative, for its access to justice goals, funding both social cause legal matters and private litigation. Sean is in the people's choice competition for the Queensland Young Achievers Award. An award will give a boost to legal assistance crowd funding as well as acknowledging Sean's efforts.
Click image to go to facebook poll
27 April 2016 - What to Consider When Choosing a Domain Name for Your Law Firm
Juris Marketing has published an e-book on the topic of domain names for law firms. According to Frank Downes of Juris: “The best domain for a legal practitioner in Australia is one that ends in “.com.au” i.e. yourlawfirm.com.au. If you can obtain the “.com” and “.net.au” it is an added bonus from a brand protection point of view.”
“Avoid hyphens and dashes and try to make the domain as short as possible. If you do use an abbreviation of your practice name, make sure the abbreviation seems natural and obvious,” says Mr Downes.
There are a number of common domain variations when it comes to legal practitioners:
- YournameIndustry.com.au (normally legal or law)
The e-book outlines the strengths and weaknesses of each of these types of domains. For example, the weaknesses of yournameIndustry.com.au e.g. frankdowneslegal.com.au are the length and lack of keywords. The length makes it harder to remember and the word “legal” does not add any value if you specialise in a practice area.
The e-book also covers the SEO impact of different domain formats.
Have you considered using the “.law” domain? According to the e-book, “...unless you have a practice with an international focus or client base in the United States, the .law domain will offer few advantages and many costs”.
The e-book, Choosing Your Domain Name - A guide to choosing the perfect domain for your legal practice, is free and can be downloaded in PDF form via the Juris website.
26 April 2016 - Telstra Funds Legal Sector Disruptors
Telstra operates its own startup accelerator called muru-D. It has locations in Sydney and Singapore and partnerships in Brisbane and Auckland. What's in it for Telstra? According to Telstra:
• Supporting the Australian technology community
We know that startups like you are building are the future of technology in Australia. We want to work with you to keep these crucial skills here in Australia, we want to prove that you don’t need to go overseas to be successful.
• Access to innovation right from the grass-roots
muru-D will be a place where some of the most cutting edge tech ideas in Australia will come to light. We want to work with the brightest digital minds & be part of this scene of innovation right from the grass-roots upwards.
muru-D startups operate in many industry sectors. The two that are in the legal sector both originated from Singapore with one already expanding into Australia - LawCanvas.
Picture (above) from LawCanvas website. The other startup, Maxine is in pre-launch.
19 April 2016 - Norton Rose LawPath
14 April 2016 - Shock Survey Result: Lawyers are Happy With Their Work-Life Balance
12 April 2016 - 12 Month Dwelling Sales Volumes Down 5.3% Nationwide
In its most recent housing update, CoreLogic's statistical analysis reveals that there were 473K sales of houses and units in the 12 months to March 2016. In the previous 12 months there were 499K. The reduction has been 5.3% nationwide.
Unit sales were down by 9.7% and house sales were down by 3.4%.
Sales volumes over the 12 month period, compared to the previous year, on a state by state basis:
7 April 2016 - First E-conveyance on Gold Coast - What it Was Like
4 April 2016 - Weak Employment Market for Professionals
Compared to five years ago there are 18% fewer internet job advertisements for lawyers. There are 19% fewer ads for accountants. Interestingly, these two percentages are very close to the overall decline in internet job ads for Australia (all employment categories) which is 20%. Going against the trend is job ads for real estate agents which is 46% higher than five years ago.
Although lower than five years ago, the demand for employed lawyers, as indicated by job ads, has been improving over the past two years. This followed 2012 and 2013 during which large law firms went through a period of downsizing and staff shedding.
Graphs showing the number of job advertisements on the internet
23 March 2016 - Property Market Defies Scaremongering Tabloid Headlines
22 March 2016 - The Path to Success in Conveyancing and Property Law Practice
18 March 2016 - Whether you win, lose or settle, how do your clients know that you cared?
14 March 2016 - Is Lawcadia the Uber of the Legal Industry?
14 March 2016 - Many Reasons for Lack of New Bar Work
10 March 2016 - The Conveyancer as Project Manager
8 March 2016 - Call to Change the Migration Act Before Federal Election to End Dual Registration for Lawyers
The Law Council of Australia’s president-elect, Fiona McLeod SC, has used an address at the 2016 CPD Immigration Law Conference to call on the federal government to dismantle the dual regulation of migration lawyers before Parliament is prorogued for this year’s federal election.
7 March 2016 - The Never-Satisfactory Green Slip System
1 March 2016 - SAI Global Conducts a Record 605,000 Settlements Over 12 Months
29 February 2016 - Is There Any Good News in The Slater and Gordon Half Year Financial Results?
25 February 2016 - Slater and Gordon tension mounts; AdventBalance to merge with LOD, and IMF Bentham prepares for payday
Two lawyer contracting businesses based at opposite ends of the world are merging. AdventBalance operating in Australia and with a presence in Asia is merging with Lawyers On Demand (LOD). LOD was established in the UK by an investment from Berwin Leighton Paisner – a large UK-headquartered international law firm. The merged firms will trade under the one name: Lawyers On Demand.
Tension is building as Slater & Gordon prepares to announce its half year financial results. In a surprise move, the company suspended trading in its shares on Wednesday 24th February while it works on finalising its half year financials. The reason for the suspension is related to the possibility of the company making additional disclosures before Monday. The announcement is expected to occur prior to its shares resuming trading on Monday 29th February.
Litigation funder IMF Bentham made an uncharacteristic loss in the first half of 2015/16. Its loss was $560K before income tax for the half year. The company has expanded greatly, mainly in overseas jurisdictions. As a result, salaries and overheads are up coinciding with meagre revenue for the half. However revenue from litigation is as lumpy as you can get. The company had $94m of cash as at 31 December 2015 plus investments in cases which it estimates have a claim value (of which it receives a slice) of more than $3 billion.
24 February 2016 - Half Year Results: IPH Limited Profitability Beats Rival; Shine Lawyers Write Offs Decimate Earnings
Yesterday we stated that Xenith IP’s half year financial result was stellar and would be hard to top. It has been topped in a big way. ASX listed firm IPH Limited achieved an EBITDA of 46.5% (adjusted earnings basis) on six months revenue of $69 million.
As with Xenith IP, IPH also benefited from some one-off factors such as exchange rate movements, but its profitability beat Xenith IP’s by a gross margin of around 10%.
IPH Limited is made up of Spruson & Ferguson, Fisher Adams Kelly Callinans, Practice Insight (including WiseTime) and Pizzeys Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys.
IPH Limited’s EBITDA percentage for the equivalent period of the previous year was 42.4%. Despite the phenomenal result, the share price of IPH Limited fell 9% on the day to $8.49. The IPH share price might have overreached, as it still closed at more than double its low point of the past 12 months.
IPH is achieving strong benefits from scale and this might account for its profitability lead over smaller rival Xenith IP. Most law firms would look at this rate of profitability with envy. One such law firm might be Shine Lawyers.
Shine wrote off $17.5 million of work in progress, disbursements and debtors, leaving just $2.1 million of EBITDA on $64 million of revenue.
23 February 2016 - Xenith IP Half Year Result Will be Hard to Top
Xenith IP (formed from Shelston IP) is a small company by ASX standards and also small compared to other listed firms in the legal sector. While revenue for the six months to December 2015 was $16.3 million, it earned a healthy EBITDA of $4.9 million. The EBITDA percentage to professional fees (a component of total revenue) was a stellar 36%.
It is as if everything lined up in the company’s favour in the six months. There were some one-off factors assisting such as regulatory changes and the free gift of an exchange rate windfall.
However, the one-offs should not be seen as detracting from the strong result. It was a great six months for the company in a market that appears to be growing and in which it has assessed that it is gaining market share.
It is also a result which has not been muddied by acquisitions or shifts in WIP. In fact, Xenith operates with almost no WIP. At the end of December 2015, the company had a WIP value equivalent to eight days of professional fee revenue.
The announcement of the half year result marked three full months of being listed on the ASX. In the past week its share price has increased by 23%, making it 40% higher than its listing price.
Not only will this profitability be hard to top by other listed companies in the legal sector but it may also be hard to top by Xenith itself.
22 February 2016 - No Decline in Home Values According to Survey of Conveyancers and Property Lawyers
18 February 2016 - Law Institute of Victoria Comes Out in Favour of Contingency Fees
15 February 2016 - Global Law Firms: Will They Leave Australia as Fast as They Came?
9 February 2016 - LawyerQuote is Now Launching Nationally
4 February 2016 - Three Years of Growth in Property Sales Volumes – NSW v VIC v QLD
It has been three healthy years of increasing conveyancing activity across the three largest states. In each year across all three states, activity has been increasing. However the rate of increase has been declining, most notably in Queensland from 9% in 2014 to 5% in 2015.
Over the three years, Victoria has had the largest increase in activity of 36% from 2013 to 2015, however this has been skewed because 2012 was an exceptionally low year in that state.
2 February 2016 - Jones Day to open Brisbane Office and welcomes Brett Heading as new partner
The global law firm Jones Day has announced that it will open an office in Brisbane, Queensland, the energy and resources hub of Northeast Australia, effective February 1, 2016.
The Brisbane Office will initially focus on M&A, major projects, and project-related disputes, with an emphasis on the natural resources, construction, transport, and agriculture sectors. Brisbane is Jones Day's third office in Australia, and 43rd worldwide. The Firm opened its Sydney Office in 1998 and its Perth Office in 2014. Together, Jones Day's Australian offices have more than 60 lawyers practicing Australian law and providing a wide range of services for clients, including in litigation, projects and infrastructure, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, intellectual property, and restructuring and insolvency.
"Opening in Brisbane reflects the Firm's ongoing commitment to Australia, Australia's role in the global economy, and the importance of Queensland as a strategic source of energy, natural resources, and agricultural products for the growing Asian economies," said Stephen J. Brogan, Managing Partner of Jones Day.
When Jones Day opens in Brisbane, Brett Heading, a senior Queensland lawyer with more than 30 years of experience in mergers and acquisitions, will join as a partner, bringing a depth of local experience related to transactions and capital raisings, and with particular experience in the energy, natural resources, and agricultural sectors. Mr. Heading was a member of the Takeovers Panel (the Australian regulator of issues arising in hostile corporate takeovers), and has held Government and ASX listed company board positions. He joins from McCullough Robertson where he previously served as Chairman. On the heels of the recent addition of Mark Crean, the former Deputy Senior Partner of Herbert Smith Freehills, Mr. Heading's appointment further strengthens the M&A capability of Jones Day in Australia. More
1 February 2016 - Intense Competition in the Personal Injury Market
Shine Lawyers has now joined Slater & Gordon in suffering a major loss of confidence by ASX investors.
Shine Lawyers’ share price plummeted 73.25% on Friday (29/1/16) falling from $2.00 to close at $0.535. Less than 12 months ago Shine’s share price peaked at $3.45.
Shine Lawyers announced on Friday that its projected profit for 2015/16 would be approximately half of what it had previously expected.
Shine has stated that the reassessment of earnings was primarily a result of WIP and disbursement write offs related to its personal injury practice.
The company further announced that its performance in the six months to December 2015 was below budget. Three reasons were given:
- Sub-optimal fee earner to file ratios, and under performance by some fee earners
- Greater than expected write offs, largely attributable to regulatory reforms
- Continuing market competition, especially in Queensland
Both Shine Lawyers and Slater & Gordon have made reference to intense competition in the personal injury market with both singling out Queensland as especially challenging.
28 January 2016 - Startup Needs More Lawyers to Keep Up With Consumer Enquiries
LawAdvisor launched mid last year with its online platform that connects lawyers with people looking for legal help. LawAdvisor founder Brennan Ong, in an interview with Lifehacker, shared the biggest challenge faced by the startup. Surprisingly, the challenge was not attracting enquiries from consumers, but attracting lawyers to participate in the service.
Brennan Ong explained: “Since launching, we have been inundated with demand from the public, which has not been mirrored by lawyer numbers. As a result, we had to pause our consumer marketing campaigns and have focused on signing up more lawyers. Given that lawyers are very risk averse, we found out that many lawyers were afraid to sign-up without approval from the leadership of their firm. We’ve had to invest time and energy in meetings with Partners of law firms to explain the system, and to educate them that LawAdvisor offers a new way of working and to reach their target clientele, in a way that supports, rather than supplants, their existing practices.”
LawAdvisor has published interesting statistics about the number of internet searches across Australia each month for various types of legal assistance. According to the statistics there are more than 22,000 searches each month for conveyancing and property law. In the categories listed there are more than 120,000 searches each month. These are not searches on the LawAdvisor platform but Google-type searches.
LawAdvisor has been successful in promoting its service through facebook. It has acquired 12,000 followers in only 5 weeks.
22 January 2016 - NSW Licensed Conveyancer Numbers on the Rise
19 January 2016 - Shine Lawyers Downgrading Earnings Guidance
Shine Lawyers has halted trading in its shares on the ASX while it reassesses its earnings projections for the current financial year. The company has announced that it "expects a material reduction in its previous FY 2016 EBITDA guidance pending finalisation of this review."
The company is reviewing its WIP recovery rates and provisioning.
Over at Slater & Gordon, the share price closed at 62.5 cents which is almost at its all time low of 59.5 cents. In addition to a low share price, Slater & Gordon shareholders are considering whether to pursue a class action in response to the massive fall in the value of their investment in the company.
15 January 2016 - Share Price Performance of Publicly Listed Law Firms
11 January 2016 - So You Want to be a NewLaw Law Firm?
Image from Legalyou.com website
NewLaw law firms are known to be innovative, accessible and cost transparent. So far, innovation in the Australian legal services market has mostly focussed on the marketing, packaging and delivery of the service rather than any change to the service itself.
Internet technology is enabling this type of innovation. The prevalence and declining cost of such technology is making it possible for any law firm to become more “NewLaw”.
Some of the more common traits of NewLaw law firms are:
- Free legal documents
- Ability to generate customised “self-service” legal documents online from precedents
- Legal resources for the self-represented or part self-represented litigant
- Plain language communication - often utilising online videos
- Subscription and / or fixed fee pricing
Successful execution and promotion brings results. While it is a lot of work moving down this path, new technology continues to make it cheaper and easier. An example of a small US law firm that has become NewLaw is described by Robert Ambrogi and can be found at legalyou.com
4 January 2016 - Wisest Words Spoken About Professional Services Firms
A video using a speech by Leo Burnett (in his own voice) in which he explains the elements of one of the most successful professional services businesses in the world. Although it is an advertising firm, the principles apply perfectly to any professional services business. (PS: There is always a bowl of apples in every Leo Burnett office)